On Tuesday, Pope Francis I issued a 50,000-word statement, officially referred to as an “apostolic exhortation” titled Evangelii Gaudium, attacking capitalism and embracing Latin American “liberation theology.”
In February, a month before he was selected as pope, Breitbart News wrote this about then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina:
[T]he chances of the leading Latin American contenders–Cardinal Leonardo Sandri of Argentina, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, Cardinal Odilo Scherer of Brazil, and Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina [Note: A month later he was selected Pope Francis I]–are diminished by the prevalence of the left wing “liberation theology” among many Roman Catholic clergy members in Latin America. Cardinals outside of Latin America may be leery that the election of a Latin American pope may lead to the exporting of that theology–considered heretical by many–to the rest of the world.
Eight months after Pope Francis I was elevated to the papacy, he has, in effect, placed the worldwide apparatus of the Roman Catholic Church on record in favor of statism and in opposition to free markets. The pope’s statement on Tuesday showed a remarkable ignorance of free market capitalism. Indeed, his judgmental rejection of the economic system that has delivered billions of people throughout the world from poverty is chilling.
“Today,” the pope wrote in his statement, “everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized.”
“[S]ome people,” the statement added, “continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.” [emphasis added]
Francis I is the first pope who is a member of the Jesuit order. His statement that the benefits of free-market systems have “never been confirmed by the facts” is the sort of extreme assertion Jesuits are known to make when presenting an argument. As R.R. Reno, editor of First Things, the blog of the Institution on Religion and Public Life, wrote in September:
When Pope Francis was elected a friend asked me what to expect. “Strap on your seatbelt,” I replied. The comment didn’t reflect any special knowledge of Jorge Bergoglio. But I know Jesuits. They tend to be extremists of one sort or another.
Pope Francis I is clearly unfamiliar with the works of Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, and Ludwig von Mises, among others, each of whom have provided voluminous evidence supporting the benefits to all of free markets.
This development is troubling for all Americans, and especially so for the many millions of Roman Catholics in America who strongly reject the “liberation theology” the pope has now endorsed.
One major effort in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States–The Catholic Campaign for Human Development–has been promoting projects that align with “liberation theology” for over four decades.
As Rey Flores wrote in Crisis Magazine, which describes itself as a voice for the faithful Catholic laity, in 2011, “[i]n its 40-plus year history, the [Catholic Campaign for Human Development] has funded many organizations and activities that are at best questionable and at worst downright reprehensible. Indeed, through the CCHD annual November collection, American Catholics have funded efforts promoting ‘reproductive justice’, (i.e., abortion) and ‘marriage equality’ (gay ‘marriage’), among other causes.”
Roman Catholics in America who oppose “liberation theology” can take solace in the fact that Pope Francis I’s statement was issued as an apostolic exhortation rather than as an encyclical, which has more solemn authority.
According to ETWN, the Global Catholic Network, of the various formal documents which can be issued by the Vatican, an encyclical is “[a] circular or general letter expressing the mind of the Pope, generally on matters of faith and morals,” while an apostolic letter has “less solemnity than an an encyclical,” though it “may be written on a doctrinal matter.”
An apostolic exhortation is “[a] category of document similar to an Apostolic Letter, which Pope John Paul II use[d] to communicate to the Church the conclusions he… reached after consideration of the recommendations of a Synod of Bishops. He… also used it in other circumstances, such as to exhort religious to a deeper evangelical life.”
Adherents of “liberation theology” within the Roman Catholic Church provided the funding for Chicago’s Saul Alinsky and his community organizing political power techniques in which our “transformative redistributionist” President, Barack Obama, was trained in the early 1980s. Indeed, President Obama was personally trained in Alinsky’s community organizing principles by a radical former Jesuit Catholic priest, Greg Galluzzo.
While the implications of the pope’s recent statement for American politics remain unclear, it is unlikely that the Democratic Party will ignore the potential this statement has to prop up the supposed moral superiority of their own redistributive statist policies.